Niacin is a form of vitamin B, also known as niacin or B3, which is important for normal cellular function.
Niacin is water-soluble. This means it is quickly absorbed by the water and available to your body immediately.
Niacin has been studied for its potential to treat a variety of diseases.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- erectile dysfunction
- sickle cell anemia
So far, there hasn’t been much evidence for these uses.
This article looks at niacin and its different forms of use. It also discusses side effects and dosage.
What is niacin used for?
Doctors used to prescribe niacin to help control cholesterol in people with heart disease.
In 2011, a study found that niacin did not benefit people with high cholesterol. After the study was published, doctors stopped prescribing it.
Today, niacin is primarily used to treat niacin deficiency.Severe niacin deficiency can cause pellagra.
The disease is characterized by:
- skin lesions
Niacin deficiency can be caused by:
- chronic alcoholism
Most people get enough niacin from food.
Good sources include:
- green vegetables
- fortified cereals
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends:
- 14 mg niacin per day for women
- 16 mg niacin per day for men
This includes niacin from all sources, including food.
If your doctor or nutritionist says you need more vitamin B3, you may need to take a supplement.
Niacin supplements come in several different forms. Each form affects your body differently.
immediate release of niacin
Immediate release (IR) niacin is also known as “rapid release”. When you take this type, the entire dose goes into your bloodstream as soon as you swallow it.
Therefore, IR niacin is more likely to cause side effects than other forms.
Some bottles may not state whether they contain “immediate-release” or “sustained-release” products. If not stated on the label, it is usually an IR product.
Immediate-release niacin is more likely to cause side effects such as flushing. If the bottle doesn’t state what form it is in, it’s usually an immediate release.
Sustained Release Niacin
Extended-release (ER) niacin is available by prescription.
ER niacin is released into the body more slowly than the IR form. The ER form may cause side effects, and if they do, they may not be as severe as those associated with the IR form.
The brand name is:
There is also a generic version.
A controlled-release version called Slo-Niacin is sold over the counter (OTC). This brand may be cheaper.
sustained release niacin
Sustained-release (SR) niacin is also known as “timed-release.” This form releases niacin over a period of time, rather than all at once.
The SR forms may cause side effects, and if they do, they may be milder than the IR forms.
SR forms take longer to clear the body than IR or ER forms. For this reason, SR niacin carries a risk of vitamin toxicity. This can lead to liver damage.
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Do not take SR Niacin if you have liver disease such as cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis B or C infection. Instead, choose the IR or ER version.
possible side effects
Niacin supplements are safe for most people. However, they may cause side effects.
The most common side effect is flushing.
This feels like:
- redness of the face, arms, and chest
Flushing may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- blood pressure drop
Niacin side effects can be unpleasant. Some people find them unbearable. They do subside after a few weeks, though. In the meantime, there are ways to reduce them.
- Easy access to full dose. For example, if you should be taking 500 mg per day, take 250 mg the first few days. Gradually increase to maximum strength as tolerated.
- Switch recipes. If IR niacin is causing problems, you may need to try another form. OTC extended-release or extended-release forms may be helpful. This is because niacin is released gradually, not all at once.
- divided doses. Try taking half in the morning and half in the evening. You can split the immediate-release tablet in two. But remember, you should never cut, chew, or dissolve extended-release or extended-release tablets.
- Avoid alcohol and hot drinks. Both can make side effects worse. Cut down on alcohol until you no longer have side effects. Cut back on hot coffee, tea, and other hot beverages, or stop drinking them altogether.
- Take aspirin. Studies show that aspirin can reduce flushing side effects by 30 to 50 percent. Take aspirin 30 minutes before or at the same time as niacin.
- No flush niacin.This supplement contains a form called niacin Nicotinamide. it also contains Inositol hexaniacinate, A compound made from niacin and a sugar called inositol. It is better tolerated than other forms of niacin.
Do not take high doses of niacin. More than 3 grams per day may cause serious side effects. These side effects include:
- liver damage
- Gastrointestinal ulcer
- vision loss
- high blood sugar
- other serious problems
High-dose niacin is also associated with an increased risk of stroke.
The most common side effect of niacin is flushing. It can also cause other side effects, such as dizziness and low blood pressure.
If you find niacin intolerable, try starting with a lower dose or changing the formula.
Dosage and Preparation
Most generally healthy people get enough niacin through their diet, so additional supplementation is usually not needed. Most research is based on flaws.
If your doctor prescribes niacin, your dose will depend on the following factors:
- medical history
Talk to your doctor before taking over-the-counter niacin. If your doctor agrees that this is helpful, you can work together to find the right formula and dosage.
Don’t think of niacin as “just a supplement.” It is a drug whether it is an over-the-counter or a prescription drug. That means it has risks and side effects. Report any major side effects to your doctor right away.
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It is important to speak with your doctor before starting niacin or any other supplement. Your doctor will work with you to find the right dosage and formulation.
Niacin is an important form of vitamin B. Your body needs it for normal cellular function.
Niacin has been used to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and sickle cell disease. Research so far has not shown it to be effective for these uses.
Most people can get enough niacin from the foods they eat. However, in some cases, niacin supplements may be prescribed to treat niacin deficiency.
Niacin is available in immediate-release, extended-release, and sustained-release forms. The immediate-release form is more likely to cause side effects such as flushing. Sustained-release forms may cause liver toxicity. These forms should be avoided if you have liver disease.
Other side effects may include headache, dizziness, and low blood pressure. If you have side effects, you may need to try a different formula or start with a smaller dose.
Do not take high doses of niacin. This can cause serious side effects and possibly even a stroke. Talk to your doctor before starting niacin or any other supplement.